Studies and trials of specific foods for defense against dementia have proved inconclusive. A new approach, one that advocates overall dietary changes, may provide the answer to finding an effective dietary modification to lower the risks of developing Alzheimer’s.
Interestingly, the dietary components advocated to promote a healthy brain are the same as those that promote a healthy heart: low intake of saturated fats and simple carbohydrates, those carbohydrates found in white bread, white pastas, pastries and sugary foods and beverages.
“A more promising approach to the study of dietary factors in Alzheimer’s disease might entail the use of whole-diet interventions,” said Jennifer L Bayer-Carter, MS, from Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System.
“Our study supports further investigation into the possibility that consumption of a diet high in saturated fat and simple carbohydrates may contribute to pathologic processes in the brain that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Conversely, diets low in saturated fat and simple carbohydrates may offer protection against Alzheimer’s disease and enhance brain health.”
Bayer-Carter and her team of researchers analyzed the results of two different diets in 20 healthy older adults and in 29 unhealthy older adults who had amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), a precursor of Alzheimer’s disease involving some memory problems.
One diet, LOW, consisted of low saturated fats and carbs; the other, HIGH, emphasized foods high in saturated fats and simple carbs.
After 4 weeks, cerebrospinal fluid in healthy participants on the LOW diet had decreased amounts of biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s and lower total cholesterol counts.
Cerebrospinal fluid in those on the HIGH diet had higher amounts of Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers, such as the levels of amyloid-beta protein in cerebrospinal fluid.
Both the healthy and unhealthy participants showed improved performance on delayed visual-recall tests of memory, but not on other cognitive measures.
These results may show that dietary interventions are not as effective in later states of cognitive impairment.
Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, April 15, 2013 Study published in Archives of Neurology